A Preview Of Michelle Obama's Book, 'Becoming'

Nov 9, 2018
Originally published on November 9, 2018 7:02 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Former first lady Michelle Obama has a book coming out next week. The memoir called "Becoming" chronicles her childhood in Chicago, the early years of her marriage to Barack Obama and her time as America's first African-American first lady. The book is her story, but Obama writes about the current political moment and President Trump. In it, she calls Trump a misogynist and says he put her family at risk with his birtherism claims. And she fumes at what has come to pass since her husband left office.

Well, our co-host Audie Cornish has talked to Michelle Obama about "Becoming," and Audie is here to talk with all of us about that conversation now. Hey, Audie.

AUDIE CORNISH, BYLINE: Hey there, Ailsa.

CHANG: So you and Michelle Obama talked in her hometown of Chicago last week. And I'm curious. What was your main takeaway from that entire conversation?

CORNISH: This is Michelle Obama's opportunity to define herself for herself. You know, back when she was - her husband was running for president, she was called things like a princess from the South Side and very much defined by other people's perceptions of how she was raised. And now she's finally getting to tell her own story.

CHANG: And part of that story is about meeting and falling in love with this guy with this different background, a strange name. What did she say about their relationship?

CORNISH: Well, you've started to hear a little bit about some of the more difficult aspects of their marriage - her having conceived through IVF, then having to go through marriage counseling. But there's also some light things as well. You know, dating Barack Obama sounds like exactly what it sounds like.

CHANG: (Laughter).

CORNISH: The kind of guy who is up at night staring at the ceiling, and you ask him something, hoping he'll say something romantic, and he says he's thinking about income inequality.

CHANG: Oh, man (laughter).

CORNISH: She found this - you know, his force of will and his purpose sometimes destabilizing as she herself was trying to figure out who she was.

MICHELLE OBAMA: I knew that we were falling in love and that we would get married. And I felt like I need to anchor myself and who I was so that I didn't just become his woman. You know, that I knew I didn't want to just be.

CORNISH: And that was really important as they entered political life. And her entry into the campaign trail was a rocky one and a tough transition for her. And we talk a lot about that.

CHANG: And this idea, this challenge of trying to define herself, it comes up again and again, especially when she becomes first lady.

CORNISH: Right, because then she has to do it in front of the world.

CHANG: Yeah.

CORNISH: Here's what she had to say.

OBAMA: I felt like I had to deliver something and that - I felt that once people got to know me, I would earn it. I never thought it would just be bestowed on me because I know that there are millions of people in this country who just don't know black people. My view was, let me explain to you who I am. Let me show you by the work that I do.

CORNISH: She felt a lot of pressure because she got so much criticism on the campaign trail. I don't know if people remember that New Yorker cover that sort of was a satire. And it showed her in an afro doing the fist bump.

CHANG: Exactly.

CORNISH: I mean, that was her caricature in public life. And she also talked about learning from past first ladies. She also discussed sitting down with Hillary Clinton and from that learning maybe you don't wander too far into the West Wing and into policy. So the story of Michelle Obama is somebody who is already very careful, already very cautious and entering a really rough-and-tumble world and having to find her way.

CHANG: You can hear our co-host Audie Cornish's conversation with Michelle Obama next Monday on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Thanks, Audie.

CORNISH: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.